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Jessica Volunteers With Mellon Educate

Published by Bedford Modern School on Thursday 9th of March 2023

In November, Year 13 student Jessica Hughes spent a week in Cape Town where she worked alongside 250 volunteers from Mellon Educate to renovate two local schools as part of their 2022 ‘Building Blitz’.

Mellon Educate is a development charity which has, to date, built or renovated 32 schools and worked with the South African government to house 175,000 local people in high-grade permanent homes. Their annual ‘Building Blitz’ requires volunteers from around the world to raise sponsorship funds before attending a week of building and refurbishing housing and school buildings in Africa.

In December 2021 Jessica began working towards the fundraising goal for her trip. She promoted her JustGiving page in several ways – including running a mile every day in August 2022, even when she caught COVID-19. She also sold some of her own possessions on eBay to make personal contributions towards her target.

Arriving in Cape Town on Saturday 12 November 2022, Jessica was assigned to Injongo Primary School alongside 107 other volunteers, to begin a full refurbishment of the building. The team worked in hot and windy conditions to build four new classrooms, a playground, a toilet block and a kitchen, as well as renovating existing classrooms. The kitchen was one of the most significant additions to the school, along with a covered eating area, as all meals at Injongo had previously been cooked and eaten outside.

Jessica said:

“I had no previous construction experience – it was all completely new to me. As a first-year volunteer, I was known as a ‘labourer’ and did a lot of general tasks like mixing cement and making wheelbarrow trips. I did a lot of plastering as I really enjoyed that.”

During the week there were also trips out for volunteers to visit one of Mellon Educate’s literacy hubs. The charity funds a literacy hub area in every school they build or refurbish, where one-on-one tutoring can take place. Jessica visited a school built in the 2015 Building Blitz where she sat with a young student, listening to him read and playing literacy games with him. This was a fantastic opportunity to see her hard-earned sponsorship money in action.

Jessica added:

“Doing something like this makes you realise just how lucky you are and really puts things into perspective. It has changed my outlook and I would definitely like to go again.”
Jessica Volunteers With Mellon Educate - Photo 1
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Hazelwood School